The 200-year-old reservoir at the heart of Chasewater Country Park was drained of water in early 2010 amid concerns for the safety of the dam which dates back to 1797.
The £5.5 million project, started by Lichfield District Council was taken over by Staffordshire County Council in May 2011.
Now the ‘plug has gone back in’ and water levels can once more start to rise. This will restore Chasewater to its original position as a major regional leisure attraction, wildlife haven and key component of the Midlands canal network. Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Assets said:
“This has been a major engineering project that has been carried through to a swift and successful conclusion.
“I am now delighted to be able to confirm that the plug is back in and the reservoir will start to refill naturally with water.”
The original role of the reservoir was to regulate water in the Midlands canal network – in times of drought water would be drawn from the reservoir to ensure the economically vital canals were still deep enough to navigate.
Fears however had grown that the earth dam was no longer safe to withstand major floods, was leaking, and could pose a danger to nearby homes.
County Councillor Winnington said: “We now have a much better understanding of the dam. Overflow precautions have been improved to safeguard nearby residents in the event of severe flooding, and we will be able to monitor the condition of the dam much more closely in the future.
“The drawdown culvert – the equivalent of the plughole in a bath – was located and inspected for the first time in over 200 years. Vital improvements have now been made. A mystery brick-built chamber that does not appear on any plans was also discovered inside the dam, and will now be used as part of our monitoring procedures.”
Water does seep through the dam, but this is perfectly normal and acceptable as long as it is carefully monitored to spot potential safety concerns. It has also created a mini-ecosystem that has become a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The work has ensured this is safeguarded.
Clive Thomson, the county council’s Head of Specialist Services said: “The dam is as safe as it is possible to make it and we will now be able to monitor its condition in far greater detail than was previously possible.
“Some water will always pass through an earth dam, but we are now able to keep a very close eye on how much and ensure this is not weakening the structure.”
County Councillor Winnington said: “People should start to see the water levels in the dam rise. We realise that many local people have been frustrated about the length of time that the reservoir has been empty, but we really have completed the work in as short a time as practical, and to keep local people informed with help from colleagues at Lichfield District Council.
“This work will provide reassurance for local people, will allow the country park to go from strength-to-strength as a visitor attraction and will also benefit wildlife and users of the regional canal network.”
It is hoped the reservoir should have refilled fully by Summer 2013 if there is average rainfall.
- Chasewater reservoir covers 108 hectares and holds approximately 3.7 million cubic metres of water.
- It would take approximately 1.5 million road tankers full of water to fill the reservoir.
- The main dam is 560 metres long and is 12 metres high